A top health official warned the US could see a surge in COVID-19 infections if Americans let up on restrictions now. He argued, however, that it was entirely avoidable. That was Monday. On Tuesday, Indiana and Virginia unveiled plans to loosen mitigation measures anyway, joining at least a dozen other states that had already done so since the start of the month.
“The continued relaxation of prevention measures while cases are still high and while concerning variants are spreading rapidly throughout the United States is a serious threat to the progress we have made as a nation,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at a White House briefing.
It wasn’t the first time Walensky had brought up such concerns and a chorus of other health experts have made a similar point: While vaccination numbers continue to climb, safety measures will be critical in the coming weeks to help curb another possible surge as dangerous variants spread across the country.
“It’s really very much a race,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN’s Christina Maxouris. “It could go either way,” he said. Hotez added that a combination of relaxing measures, allowing people to travel and new variants circulating in the country all threatened success.
In Indiana, a face-covering mandate will become a state mask advisory in most public places from April 6, Gov. Eric Holcomb said Tuesday. Decisions about venue capacity will be in the hands of local officials, and customers in restaurants, bars and nightclubs will no longer be required to be seated. In Virginia, indoor and outdoor gathering limits will increase and certain sports and entertainment venues will be able to operate with extra capacity.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: When will kids and teens be vaccinated against COVID-19?
A: Most countries are not yet looking at vaccinating children on a wide scale against COVID-19, prioritizing adults, who are at greater risk of developing disease from the virus, in general. But for Americans, at least, it’s a reasonable question, as more than 44 million people in the country are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccines in the US are only available for adults, except Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine, which is authorized for people aged 16 and older. While there’s a chance a vaccine will be available to high school and middle school-age children by this fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has said younger children may have to wait until the first quarter of 2022. Read here for more.
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WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
AstraZeneca defends data as questions swirl over its latest snafu
British-Swedish drug company AstraZeneca has defended its data after the US NIAID raised concerns the company may have included outdated information, giving an “incomplete view” of its vaccine’s efficacy. The company on Monday published glowing clinical trial results, showing the vaccine was 79% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and 100% effective in preventing hospitalization or severe disease.
AstraZeneca said Tuesday it would provide more recent data to the institute within 48 hours, but the slip-up has raised questions over the company’s management. Several vaccine advisers in the US said the company can expect many questions when it applies for authorization there. The company was accused of sowing confusion last year after it blended data from differently designed clinical trials involving varying dosing regimens.
Could the EU block vaccine exports to the UK?
European Union leaders are unveiling a proposal Wednesday to adapt existing export rules for COVID-19 vaccines, days after senior officials threatened to block the export of the vaccine made in the Netherlands to the UK. The EU and UK have been at loggerheads for months over a limited supply of vaccines, particularly those made by AstraZeneca.
AstraZeneca had set delivery targets for both the UK and the EU, but has failed to make good on tens of millions of doses to the 27-country bloc, which is struggling to roll out vaccination programs that will help reopen its economies. The company has said it is prioritizing the UK with doses produced in that country, but Brussels is angry that doses made in the EU are being sent across the Channel.
German leader Merkel apologizes and backtracks on Easter lockdown
Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was rescinding an order to label several days over Easter “quiet” days, essentially scrapping a five-day hard lockdown she announced in the early hours of Tuesday, following a marathon session with state leaders. The country is battling a surge in infections.
Her initial orders were based on good intentions, she said at a hastily organized press conference at the German chancellory Wednesday, acknowledging the changes needed weren’t possible with such little notice. Merkel asked the nation for forgiveness and said the confusion over Easter was “singularly and alone my mistake.”
ON OUR RADAR
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- Pelotons and iPads: To keep employees happy amid the stress and exhaustion of the pandemic, some Wall Street banks are handing out toys, gifts and perks.
- After living in a camper for a year to keep her family safe, this doctor has finally moved back home.
- Hong Kong and Macao have suspended their BioNTech coronavirus vaccine rollouts due to a packaging defect, as a precaution after they received a letter from the company and its Chinese partner indicating an issue with the seal on individual vials in one batch.
For many parents whose children have been attending school online for the better part of a year, mass vaccinations could bring a brighter future. So how should parents prepare their kids for a return to school? Plan ahead, says Dr. Neha Chaudhary. Talk to school staff about what kids need to bring and have contingency plans for slip-ups, like when that masks falls on a dirty floor, or when children forget to wash their hands. Read here for more tips.
“This pandemic has basically been about ethics. It’s ethics at the front. It’s ideas about liberty, ideas about sharing, ideas about who goes first.” — Arthur Caplan, Director of Bioethics at NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine
If you’re not eligible for the vaccine yet, should you still try to get the shot early anyway? CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta speaks with Caplan about when line-jumping is defensible and other ethical decisions around vaccine distribution in the US. Listen now. Listen now.